The Washington Wizards began last season 0-8, a start to the season that eventually got Flip Saunders fired from the head coaching job. Assistant Randy Wittman took over and got a new contract after the team finished strong last year. [Strong by their standards, anyway.] Now, the Wizards are just one more loss from repeating that feat, as they fell to 0-7 last night after a 107-101 loss to a Dallas Mavericks team playing without Dirk Nowitzki or Shawn Marion.
The Wizards fell behind by 22 at halftime and at the end of the third quarter before the reserves showed some signs of life and whittled the Dallas lead down to three with about five minutes left in regulation. However, as has been the case several times this year, the Wizards could not close in crunch time, instead crumbling once more.
Unlike the loss the night before to the Charlotte Bobcats, when the Wizards shot under 30 percent, last night the Wizards shot well, almost 50 percent from the field, almost 50 percent from 3-point range and over 90 percent from the free throw line. The problem was that their defense, if you could call it that, let the Mavericks shoot over 50 percent, largely on the backs of complete domination of the paint by center Chris Kaman. In addition, the Wizards shot only 11 free throws, making 10 of them, while Dallas shot 33 free throws, making 26 of them. That more than made up for the fact that Washington hit 13 3-pointers to only three for Dallas.
The starters struggled again, with point guard AJ Price as the only one of them to score in double figures. Price, though, injured his ankle and played only about 18 minutes last night. After the game, Price vowed to play on as long as his ankle wasn't broken.
Jordan Crawford came off the bench to lead the Wizards back, scoring 21 points on 11 shots in over 34 minutes, and playing some point guard after Price went out of the game. Crawford certainly isn't an ideal point guard, as evidence by his five turnovers, but he played hard last night and made a real effort to involve his teammates in the game, as evidenced by his 7 assists.
This season Jan Vesely has scored 17 points and committed 21 personal fouls. He didn't score again last night in 15-and-a-half minutes, though the team was +14 with him on the court. I don't see any real progression from Vesely in his second season. We understood when he was drafted that Vesely was a project and a project he remains. Maybe there is the potential for a real NBA player in Vesely, but, so far, there is no evidence of it.
But that's last year's first round draft pick. This year's first round draft pick, Bradley Beal, whom I wanted very much with the third pick, was terrible again, missing 11 of 14 shots and growing increasingly frustrated with his inability to draw a foul. It's true that the refs are giving Beal even less respect than rookies normally get, but he does play for the Wizards after all. Besides, that doesn't explain why Beal misses so many open jump shots. For a player who came to the NBA with a reputation as a shooter with a great stroke, Beal looks like a one-trick pony who has forgotten his one trick. It's not good.
Beal's Dallas counterpart, OJ Mayo, scored 25 points on 15 shots to lead all scorers last night.
Kevin Seraphin bounced back from a bad night against Charlotte to score 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting against Dallas. Unfortunately, he still does not get to the line and he's still an average rebounder, at best. Nevertheless, Seraphin is about the only player on the roster the Wizards have been able to develop into a real NBA player. I'm not sure why he played onl 23 minutes last night -- it's probably time to move him into the starting lineup and give him some minutes alongside Emeka Okafor, who proved unable to handle Chris Kaman last night.
Another thing that puzzles me is why swingman Cartier Martin gets so little playing time. On a team full of players who cannot shoot, Martin stands out as, well, someone who can actually shoot. If Beal was lighting the scoreboard up I could understand leaving him on the court and telling Martin to bite the bullet while the Wizards develop the 3rd overall pick in the draft. However, Beal looks terrible right now and Martin is doing what he does -- shooting the ball into the basket. He scored 14 points in less than 10 minutes last night, making 5 of 6 shots, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range. Again and again Martin hit a big shot to draw the Wizards close, sometimes to within three points, of the Mavericks and he seemed easily the team's most effective perimeter player. I would really like to see him getting more time on the court. Perhaps a lineup of Okafor, Seraphin, Martin, Beal and Price, if he's healthy, is the way to go. I don't see how it could do any worse than the starting lineup Randy Wittman is using right now.
Anyway, the Wizards are terrible and the only winless team in the NBA -- again. It's time to shake this up. Preaching patience game after game, month after month, year after year, isn't going to cut it. There's no point firing the coach because I don't see how anyone else could do much better with this roster than Wittman is doing. And since owner Ted Leonsis is apparently joined in some sort of death-grip suicide pact with GM Ernie Grunfeld, there is nothing to do in the frontn office. That leaves the lineup. Change it up, Coach Wittman. Don't just keep losing with the same guys in there. Do something. Anything.